RESP Only For the Rich ?

TL:DR : Rich folk are using RESPs much more than the poor, which is counter to whom it was supposed to help.

Stats Canada came out with a very telling survey titled, Why are Lower-income Parents Less Likely to Open an RESP Account? by Aneta Bonikowska and Marc Frenette. The findings are worrisome in that it points to the fact that the RESP seems to be a program mostly used by the rich(er) parents.

A telling quote from the Executive summary.

The results suggest that differences in wealth remain the single most important factor behind the gap in RESP participation by family income, even after accounting for differences in parental education and literacy, numeracy and financial literacy.

Why are Lower-income Parents Less Likely to Open an RESP Account? The Roles of Literacy, Education and Wealth

Many lower income families are unaware that even if the put no money into the program, it can grow with the Canada Learning Bond. This can add up to almost $2000 (over the life of the RESP).

The claim that this is a Financial Literacy issue is a bit of a stretch, but possible. I think it is that Lower Income families are not aware of the CLB and other benefits (which I suppose is Financial Literacy). My guess is tellers at banks will not offer to set up an RESP for a “No Star” customer. The Up Sell would be reserved for “good” customers.

A Graphic from Stats Canada Report about RESP and Lower Income Families

Conclusion

I guess the question is simple, if Canadian Parents are barely making ends meet, will they put money aside for their kids’ post-secondary education? This report concludes, No.

I think I agree, but I’d really like to know how to change that.

Ways to Fix This?

  1. Banks need to market this program to lower income families, and point out that there is Free money to be had. The Canada Learning Bond is that free money. I really doubt many banks will do this, unless they could make money doing it.
  2. Expand the Canada Learning Bond, so that there is more money for lower income families.
  3. Maybe a Government run RESP program, that is set up for lower income families?

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